“Work. Win. Have fun.” The words are credited to Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.
They were written on a board – still looking to confirm it was chalk – in the Indianapolis Ice locker-room. That Sutter-coached team won the International Hockey League championship that year. Those words stuck with one of the players, who is now Sutter’s coaching colleague in the NHL.
Bruce Cassidy shared a short, anonymous Sutter story after his Boston Bruins beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 in overtime on Saturday afternoon. His Bruins are enjoying themselves amid a five-game winning streak.
“Fun is not equated with the word coach a lot. We’re kind of crusty at times,” Cassidy said afterward. “When you’re winning, it’s always more enjoyable, for everybody. That’s what we take pride in, is representing the Bruins crest and playing good hockey.
“The coach of mine I remember years ago, I was on a good hockey team. He wrote on the board one day – we were going well, but we got away from it – three words: Work. Win. Have fun. He put them in that order. He basically came in that day, we had lost, and he said, ‘Don’t mess up the order. That’s the way it goes. That’s the way it needs to work.’ And he was right.”
Sutter’s Calgary Flames, however, are not feeling the same level of joy at the moment.
Concerns over rebound from Omicron outbreak linger for Flames
Losers of four straight games in regulation, and outscored 20-7 in that span, the Flames are having the opposite of fun. Sutter expressed concern over the team’s emotional effort since their lengthy COVID-19/Christmas break.
“I’m not sure if it’s COVID related, to be quite honest, with the long layoff, some guys losing their conditioning. Or if it’s actually related to the virus. I’m not 100 per cent sure,” Sutter said on Friday via Zoom. “But there’s been a drop in that. Then that affects your work, and that affects your compete, and that affects your ability to react properly. You’ve got to take that on yourself, if you’re physically right, to take that to the next level.”
After one of the league’s hottest and maybe most surprising starts, the Calgary Flames tailspin has lingered longer than the Omicron virus. They lost four straight before the break, too. Wins over the Kraken in Seattle and Blackhawks in Chicago seemed to have them on the right track but the Flames are now 2-7-1 in their last 10 games.
Perhaps Sutter will write those same words on the board, more than 30 years later.
The hard work and rediscovery of their identity has paid off for the Bruins lately.
“They’re a hard-working team that’s found their identity again,” Cassidy said. “They’re winning, and obviously then you have fun. It’s a nice combination.”
It’s a combination and an identity the Calgary Flames will try to re-discover themselves, starting Tuesday in a rematch with the Florida Panthers.